Friday, October 24, 2014

A dog, a firework, an outrage: animal cruelty in Elkhart

Posted on July 6, 2013 at 1:00 a.m. | Updated on July 6, 2013 at 3:57 p.m.

As a community we have much to celebrate — job growth that leads the nation, a vibrant Elkhart Jazz Festival, a thriving downtown Goshen capable of drawing hundreds of cars and thousands of people to its First Fridays cruise-in, among many others.

And, at the same time, we face our share of tragedies. Just two weeks ago, 16-year-old Braxton Barhams died in a drive-by shooting. Prosecutors charged another teen, Jesus Macedo Perez, with killing Barhams. On July 4, Jamie Hooker and Mitchell Rider — both 28 — died in their Baugo Township home. Police suspect carbon monoxide poisoning.

Yet despite our successes, our shared losses, today it’s a dog that merits our attention.

That’s right, a dog. But not just any dog.

This dog died a cruel and agonizing death Friday.

On the Fourth of July, children on South Main Street decided to amuse themselves by throwing fireworks at a female pit bull. Eager to play, she picked one up in her mouth and it exploded.

The blast “literally blew the dog’s face off,” said Ann K. Reel, executive director of the Elkhart County Humane Society.

A police officer took the dog to the humane society shelter, but she could not be saved. Staff euthanized her Friday.

The pain she suffered had to be unimaginable — all so that a few children could laugh at her pain and fear.

Readers reacted quickly and angrily when they saw the story Friday on elkharttruth.com.

“There is no acceptable explanation as to why something like this happened! What I want to know is where were the parents of said children while they were torturing this poor animal? Someone needs to be held accountable and made to pay for the cruelty this poor dog suffered before it had to be put down,” wrote Helen Polachek.

“These kids are old enough to light fireworks they are old enough to know better and be held accountable for their actions,” added Shelley Basham.

Exactly.

Megan Gonterman, a Humane Society official, reports that witnesses saw children throwing fireworks at the pit bull. Police say the case remains under investigation.

If those kids were too young to handle explosives without adult supervision, their parents or guardians must be held accountable — both for the children’s frightening behavior and the dog’s horrific death. But if those children were old enough to understand the pain they inflicted on an innocent animal, they should now face the consequences of their cruelty.

Police do not know to whom the pit bull belonged, which leads to a third point. As Gonterman points out, responsible dog owners do not let their animals go unattended.

If a child taunts a dog, tortures it and finds pleasure in the cruelty, a community should take notice; as the Humane Society of the United States reports, it is a short step from abusing animals to committing violent acts against people.

No animal deserves to die an agonizing death for someone’s enjoyment. Certainly not a dog who only wanted to play with a few kids Thursday on South Main Street.